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History Prof Revives Civil War Family

January 09, 2013

A newly published book, Civil War Dynasty: The Ewing Family of Ohio, by Dr. Kenneth J. Heineman, chair of Angelo State University’s History Department, is drawing excellent notices from trade reviewers and academicians.

Published by New York University Press, Civil War Dynasty looks at the impact and influence of family patriarch Thomas Ewing, who by the end of the Civil War was known as the “Father of Generals” for his three sons who made the rank, as well as his more widely known adopted son and later son-in-law, William Tecumseh Sherman.  Before the war, the senior Ewing clashed with radical abolitionists and southern secessionists.  During the war, he counseled President Lincoln, providing key advice to Lincoln on handling the Trent Affair.

Kirkus Reviews describes the book as “a thorough, revealing history of an important political and military family from Ohio during the Civil War…As warm and enticing as an oral history.”

Publishers Weekly writes, “Heineman’s fast-paced narrative brings to life a now-neglected American family as they come into their own against the complex backdrop of a nation struggling to overcome political and social differences.”

Historian Kyle S. Sinisi, author of Sacred Debts: State Civil War Claims and American Federalism, 1861-1880, writes, “Extensively researched and gracefully written, Civil War Dynasty is a model history of the United States as seen through the eyes of one very important and broadly connected family.  This is a story that has long needed telling, and it is how history should be written.”

Heineman said the Ewing family has long been overshadowed in history by William Tecumseh Sherman, who became one of the most famous Union generals of the Civil War, remembered most for his devastating march through Georgia in the closing months of the conflict.

“The rest of the family, the people who mentored him, raised him, and to whom he owed quite a bit of his success, were lost in his shadow,” Heineman said.  “Further, the Ewings were on the wrong side of history, moderates caught between the radicals of Ohio and the Southern fire eaters.  The Ewings accepted the end of slavery as a military necessity, but did not believe in equality.”

Heineman said Sherman’s 1850 wedding to Ellen Ewing, daughter of family patriarch Thomas Ewing, who was the nation’s first U.S. Secretary of the Interior at the time, occurred in the Blair House across Lafayette Park from the White House.  The wedding was attended by President Zachary Taylor and all nine of the Supreme Court justices among some 350 other politically connected guests.

“The president and the justices weren’t there in honor of a junior Army officer like William T. Sherman,” Heineman said, “but rather Thomas Ewing.”

So, there is some irony that Heineman’s first book signing of Civil War Dynasty on the influential but largely forgotten Ewing family occurred in the William T. Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, right after the first of the year.

Civil War Dynasty was published by New York University Press at a price of $35.  The book is available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and booksamillion.com, as well as at bookstores nationally.

Heineman is also the author of Campus Wars:  The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era; God Is a Conservative:  Religion, Politics, and Morality in Contemporary America; A Catholic New Deal:  Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh; and Put Your Bodies Upon The Wheels:  Student Revolt in the 1960s.

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    Dr. Kenneth J. Heineman

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